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Five month primary countdown: Not all Mass. gubernatorial candidates up for debates, yet

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Attorney General Maura Healey is running for Massachusetts governor in 2022.
Chris Van Buskirk
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State House News Service
Attorney General Maura Healey is running for Massachusetts governor in 2022.

Just over five months from the primaries for governor in Massachusetts Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz wants three debates with her main opponent, Attorney General Maura Healey, before the party convention. Matt Murphy from the State House News Service reports that Healey has other plans.

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Sen. Chang-Diaz challenged the attorney general to three pre-convention debates, which is scheduled for June 4 in Worcester. This is clearly an attempt by the Chang-Diaz campaign to not only get to square off with Maura Healey over some of the issues, but she's looking to bring exposure to her campaign, as Healey is clearly and widely considered the front runner in this race for the Democratic nomination.

Healey initially gave a lukewarm response to this challenge, suggesting vaguely that she would debate but not committing to when or where. But last week she did put out a letter saying that she would agree to two formal live televised debates moderated by news organizations, but that they would have to come after the convention before the primary, so sometime this summer. She also noted that she's also agreed to do two not formal debates, but forums, where both the candidates will appear in a moderated discussion and have a conversation about some of the issues going on in this campaign.

But it's clearly not what the Chang-Diaz campaign was hoping for. They went so far as to call the attorney general's campaign "arrogant" for suggesting that this was sufficient for voters to make up their minds before the Sept. 6 primary.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: This week, the Massachusetts Senate will turn its focus to the legal cannabis industry and take up social equity issues and host community agreements. What are lawmakers proposing?

This Senate bill attempts to do a couple of different things. It has a big thrust in the equity space. It's proposing to create a new fund that would make low interest loans, grants, forgivable loans, and other benefits available to people in communities that have been disproportionately impacted over the years by the criminalization of marijuana, by the war on drugs, as they attempt to allow people, business owners, and others to get into this industry and profit off its growth.

It's also hoping senators address what has been a fairly controversial aspect of the initial law, and that is these host community agreements that are required between cannabis companies looking to open up retail shops and other types of businesses within communities. There have long been accusations that communities are charging companies and people looking to do business, well above the percentages that they're required in order to put these agreements in place.

This would give the Cannabis Control Commission explicit authority to oversee these agreements and make sure that cities and towns are following the letter of the law when it comes to the hurdles that businesses would have to jump through to get permitted within the boundaries of municipalities around the state.

And finally, Matt, last week you and I previewed the likely conference committee negotiation between House and Senate versions of the mid-year budget. In a typical scenario, those lawmakers would work out the differences before forwarding that bill to the governor. But that didn't happen like that last week. I was a little surprised that bill did move to the governor, who did sign it, but there was no conference committee involvement. What happened?

The conference committee tends to be a real formal step in something, that, if they can avoid it, they will. In this case, the budget and spending bills were so close together that House and Senate leaders, Chairman Aaron Michlewitz from the House Ways and Means, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues, negotiated this privately behind the scenes without the formal conference committee process and stayed in most of the day on Thursday as they neared an agreement to get this done.

This bill spends about $700 million on COVID response programs, things like testing, vaccinations, and the like. It directs $400 million to human service providers. There's money for road repairs, there's money for rental assistance and the House and Senate were also able to reach an agreement to direct the state pension fund, to withdraw the small amount of money that it does have invested in companies that are incorporated in Russia, as that war is ongoing.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.